- Dupes Nigerians via unsolicited sms, ring tones, drop calls, fake promos
Following allegations of fraudulent practices by telecommunication companies in the country, regulation agency, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC has come hard on defaulters even as their operations are becoming threatened.
Recently, NCC mandated telecommunications operators in Nigeria to enforce the Do Not Disturb code across their network effective June 30 signalling an end to the uncontrolled practices by the telecommunication companies that report say have caused subscribers to lose millions of Naira which they cart to their various home countries or some projects that do not up the economy of Nigeria.
According to industry watchers, MTN, AIRTEL, ETISALAT and GLOBACOM lead in the alleged practices that caused NCC to issue the stern warning cum directive to the telecom operators banning unsolicited text messages that especially ask subscribers to partake in some services as well as promotional activities whose outcomes have not really been to the advantage of subscribers. Customers have also had to severally complain about the embarrassing rate of drop calls they experience in the cause of making phone calls.
Consequently, the NCC directive to all the mobile network operators in respect of varied forms of telemarketing, unsolicited text messages and calls now compels them to dedicate a short code for use by subscribers to opt-in to the ‘Do Not Disturb (DND)’ database on their networks. A Full DND which is SMS “STOP” to 2442 does not allow the subscribers to receive any unsolicited message from the operators at all..
The NCC tweet to the subscribing public on the development included other information on telecom marketing services on the Do Not Disturb code from which any subscriber can opt out. They include the following:
• 1 for Banking/Insurance /Financial Products,
• 2 for Real Estate
• 3 for Education,
• 4 for Health,
• 5 for Consumer goods/Automobiles,
• 6 for Communications/Broadcasting/Entertainment /IT,
• 7 for Tourism/Leisure,
• 8 for Sports, and
• 9 for Religion.
To selectively opt out of any of these services, subscribers can just text the accompanying number to 2442 or, to fully activate Do Not Disturb and bar every unsolicited text message, SMS “STOP” to 2442. It is the forgoing that poses reduced revenue and really lean times ahead for service providers, especially from services like bulk sms which has corporate customers as the major users, ring back tones and premium sms.
Premium SMS or reverse SMS billing on the other hand make the recipient pay for messages received after responding with a prompt. As for ring back tones, current practices in the industry largely compel subscribers to opt for some ring tones that are usually songs by musicians who at the end of the day benefit from the fleecing of customers.
Industry watchers agreed weekend that The Do Not Disturb code will drastically reduce the reach of telecoms companies and companies that reach out through these means, as well as the consumer Value Added Service companies will take the major hit.
Media reports have it that already some telecoms companies are reacting adversely to the development with the spokesman of one of them saying, “sending ads to targeted mobile numbers has always been effective on all fronts. If we send out 3,000 SMS for example, the reach is a guaranteed 3,000. But now with the widespread implementation of this code, and as there is no way to know which numbers are DNDed, these days, 3,000 SMS sent out now has a 2,000 target reach and people have not been made fully aware of the Do Not Disturb Code. I wonder what happens when everybody eventually knows.
I think I have a fairly good idea what will happen when the mobile subscribers are made aware of their DND magic wand. And I suspect the telcos know too, that will account for why they have been reluctant about spreading the word about this new development.”
Companies fight back
Already there is a somewhat deliberate move by telecoms companies to stall the DND directive by resisting any form of awareness programme that would increase customers knowledge of the policy. NCC underscored this fact recently when it stated that, “whereas, the Commission’s compliance checks revealed that most Mobile Network Operators have set up the Do Not Disturb facility on their networks, however, the awareness of existence of this facility is very low because the MNOs are reluctant to sensitize their subscribers on the availability of this facility and how to opt into same. Further investigations suggest that operators were not actually keen on the DND as this may affect their revenue stream from value added services.”
They fear what will happen when the mobile subscribers finally get a hold of this knowledge.
Telecoms companies have been known to have spurned serious moves by NCC to regulate their activities to the detriment of Nigeria’s interest. For instance, the ongoing MTN fine saga underscores the foregoing.
Also, ahead of the December 31, 2015 deadline, which the NCC, gave MTN Nigeria to pay a N780 billion fine for refusal to disconnect some 5.1 million improperly, registered subscribers on its network.
With the recent directive, the regulator is warning all the telecom operators to get their acts right because it is no longer going to be business as usual. The commission said it has discovered that dealing with the operators with kid gloves will breed impunity, capable of retarding development in the sector.